Home Professional Misconduct B.C. lawyer suspended two months for professional misconduct

B.C. lawyer suspended two months for professional misconduct

by HR Law Canada

The Law Society of British Columbia Tribunal has issued a two-month suspension for lawyer Spencer Owen May, following findings of professional misconduct.

The ruling, handed down on May 7, 2024, addresses May’s failures in upholding his duty of candour to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, as well as breaches of the Law Society’s client identification requirements.

The panel, chaired by Dean Lawton, KC, with members Michael Dungey and Monique Pongracic-Speier, KC, found that May misled the court during two ex parte applications related to a condominium renovation dispute. Specifically, May failed to disclose critical information about the whereabouts of a defendant, relied on misleading affidavit evidence, and neglected to serve a court order as directed.

Additionally, the Tribunal found that May did not make reasonable inquiries about his clients or the objectives of his retainer, a violation of the Law Society Rules.

The Law Society had argued for a four-month suspension and sought costs and disbursements totaling $26,767.71. May’s counsel contended for a $20,000 fine and a reduction in costs, but the panel ultimately decided on a two-month suspension and awarded $20,767.81 in costs and disbursements.

Key points of misconduct

  1. Duty of Candour: May failed to uphold his duty of candour during the Amendment Application and the Remedies Application. The panel found that he made statements indicating that the defendants had left the country when he knew there was potential contact with them. He also relied on false or misleading affidavit evidence.
  2. Failure to Serve Court Order: May was directed by the court to serve an order by alternative means in the Remedies Application but failed to do so, demonstrating what the panel described as “utter inattention” to the court’s direction.
  3. Client Identification Requirements: May breached the Law Society’s client identification requirements by not making reasonable efforts to obtain or record client information. This failure is significant as it guards against fraud, money laundering, and other unlawful activities.

Impact and response

During the hearing, May presented letters from colleagues attesting to his good character and professional activities. He testified about his personal and professional challenges during the period of misconduct, including managing a growing family and dealing with his father’s illness. May expressed remorse, stating that he had learned to be more critical in assessing retainers and had implemented more robust client identification procedures in his practice.

The panel acknowledged these mitigating factors but emphasized the seriousness and extent of May’s misconduct. The suspension is intended to maintain public confidence in the legal profession and serves as a deterrent against similar behavior.

Read the original decision here.

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